A Vineyard Management class at DuCard Vineyards

May 10, 2011 | By | 2 Replies More

Saturday's vineyard management class was the second of four at DuCard Vineyards, in Etlan, Virginia.  We've been working with a section of Norton vines, and we'll be seeing them through until the harvest.  Lots of work done is while we're not there (spraying, among other things), but we're doing much (well, some) of the essential work on the vines.

Scott Elliff, the vineyard's owner, has been migrating his vineyard from a Geneva Double Curtain trellising system to a modified Lyre system, so in our first class, we worked on pruning vines to facilitate that transition.  Both GDC and Lyre are divided canopy systems in which the trunk of the vine is planted in the middle of two sets of trellis wires about four feet apart.  With GDC, the vines grow downward, like a waterfall on each side of the row.  With Lyre, they run up.

We are also making a transition from spur pruning to cane pruning.  In spur, or cordon pruning, everything grows from a main cordon that runs permanently along the trellis wire.  Over the years it can grow several inches thick.  Cane pruning replaces that cordon with a new cane every year.   It takes a good deal of skill to decide which canes to select, and the transition from spur to cane purning presents a psychological barrier as well.  Hacking off a cordon that has served well for years and perhaps decades doesn't come easy.

Last weekend's class was about cleaning the main trunk of suckers and other unnecessary growth, and thinning the shoots on the fruiting cane.  Part of the process involved thinking ahead to next year — what shoots would likely provide the "one-year old wood" that would became next year's fruiting cane?  Sometimes the choice was obvious, other times it was anything but.

Scott and his vineyard manager, Julien, were amazingly patient, and by the end of the day, I had a bit more confidence, misplaced or not, that I could handle this part of vineyard management.  I have to give them both a lot of credit — watching 20 novices scatter through your vineyard with pruning shears in hand has to be kind of scary.  If so, they didn't show it.



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Category: All Posts, Virginia Wineries, Viticulture

Comments (2)

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  1. Kenny White says:

    Scott and Julien have been a wealth of information. They are not only good at what they do, they are great educators. I also appreciate the different perspective’s they have. Scott’s focus is more broad based. His opinions are based on not only growing great grapes and making the best wine possible but also on making the sound business decisions that have made Ducard such a success. Julien is focused on the vineyard. What is best for the vines. Thats his bottom line. I think that contrast makes them a great team. Your right, it took some guts for Scott to let us walk out into his vineyard with shears and start cutting. Julien, on the other hand, seemed to enjoy the fact that we were hacking on the Norton. I think he would have had a nervous breakdown had we been in the vinifera.

  2. Bob says:

    Hi, Kenny, agree absolutely – they make a great team, and that’s what’s made it such a wonderful educational experience. And, of course, the wine is superb!

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